Dickinson Elementary Schools welcome STEM learning labs

Partnering with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, along with industry leaders, STEM learning labs were launched at six elementary schools, aimed at encouraging problem-solving and critical thinking.

Community leaders and representatives from leading industries participate a ribbon cutting ceremony complete with confetti cannons at Prarie Rose Elementary on Wednesday, April 19.
Allison Engstrom / The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON — Six elementary schools in Dickinson are introducing STEM centers, with a range of high-tech gadgets, to help students learn transferable skills for future jobs in growing STEM-based occupations. As the STEM field continues to grow, Dickinson Public Schools continue to adapt and seek opportunities to offer students access to high-tech programming.

Hosted at Prarie Rose Elementary School, community leaders and representatives from leading industries participated in a presentation of the lab along with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday, April 19. Devon Energy, Dickinson Public School District, Flogistix and Marathon Oil partnered with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation to provide DPS Early Childhood Preschool, Berg, Heart River, Jefferson, Prairie Rose and Roosevelt elementary schools and with the all-new high-tech learning labs.

The Ripken Foundation opened close to 300 STEM centers nationwide, in their ongoing efforts to help strengthen America’s most under served communities as advocates for children.

Prairie Rose Elementary students put their new STEM center to the test, interacting with Bee-Bots gadgets on Wednesday, April 19.
Allison Engstrom / The Dickinson Press

For Steve Salam, President and CEO of the Ripken Foundation, providing access to STEM equipment is vital to helping students understand the adult world. The STEM labs offer students the opportunity to build a variety of sought-after skills using engaging tools that are versatile between every core subject.

The center is full of high-tech gadgets including 3D printers, Snap Circuits, Bee-Bots, and Ozobots, all of which are used as tools to help students hone their problem solving and critical thinking skills. Surrounded by a sea of students, various speakers including Superintendent Marcus Lewton and Mayor Scott Decker, introduced and spoke to the importance of bringing these high-tech science technology engineering and math centers to schools in Dickinson.


“It is amazing what these STEM centers do to bring complex concepts to life and allow students such as yourselves to have hands on experiences every day,” Mayor Decker said, noting that he looks forward to seeing how these STEM centers affect the city of Dickinson and every school across the state of North Dakota.

Subjects like STEM and coding are here to stay as North Dakota continues to lead the implementation of education requirements in these areas.
In late March, a bill was passed requiring elementary, middle and high schools to teach computer science and cybersecurity classes.

Devon Energy has a history and dedication to providing STEM centers like these to schools and has implemented them across states including Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Wyoming before breaking through to North Dakota.

Bernadette Granger of Flogistix spoke on the importance of allowing access to STEM for everyone and hopes that these centers will grow the next Steve Jobs or Ada Loveless right here in Dickinson.

“It is our hope that the time that you spend in your STEM center will spark a lifelong love for technology,” Granger said.

Martin Stuart, Vice President of Marathon Oil, spoke to the necessity of critical thinking and problem solving in education and in the workforce.

“The exciting thing is that this STEM initiative integrates those two things into what you're going to learn and by setting you up that way it's going to give you a great opportunity to impact the future,” Stuart said.

Mayor Scott Decker interacts with students at the newly opened STEM center at Prairie Rose Elementary on Wednesday, April 19.
Allison Engstrom / The Dickinson Press

STEM is something that exists all around us in ways that we might not even be aware of.


Shannon Johnson with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation dove into that idea, explaining how STEM can be seen in everything from baseball and baking to trades within the oil industry.

As young kids spend time interacting in these labs they learn skills that are transferable among a variety of future jobs.

STEM based jobs in areas like computer and mathematics, architecture and engineering, and life and physical science occupations are expected to continue to grow in the coming years.

“In 2021, there were nearly 10 million workers in STEM occupations and this total is projected to grow by almost 11% by 2031, over two times faster than the total for all occupations,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

DPS district elementary Library Media Specialists Marisa Riesinger and Troy Kuntz look forward to continuing to implement their new STEM centers and are excited to provide access to elementary level students.

While one might think of STEM starting at a middle school or high school level, Riesinger said that even younger students are wired for it and it starts with having access to centers like this.

A student spends time interacting with technology equipment at the new STEM center at Prairie Rose Elementary School.
Allison Engstrom / The Dickinson Press

“Now that we have an entire district doing it you can share different resources and activities and you know, bring those to our students,” Riesinger said.

Lincoln Elementary School was the first school in North Dakota to receive a STEM center like this last August where they have since experimented with things like Family Coding Night and STEM days where they are able to expand and showcase their learning.


Lewton commended Devon, Flogistix, Marathon Oil and the Ripken Foundation for staying true to their promise last year to bring STEM centers to elementary schools across the city.

Allison is a news reporter from Phoenix, Arizona where she earned a degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. After college, she worked as a middle school writing teacher in the valley. She has made her way around the U.S. driving from Arizona to Minnesota and eventually finding herself here in Dickinson. She has a passion for storytelling and enjoys covering community news.
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